Friday, April 20, 2012

Confessions of a Pinterest Mom

Ah Pinterest... how you fascinate  depress motivate inspire me!

It's not as though I need another thing to do, another "social media" that I can't keep up with. I tweet only when I remember that I might should do that, which is rarely.  I haven't been to Google+ in ages - too long to remember. I'm on facebook much less than I used to be, and let's not even start with how behind I am in blogging. Outside of my Word program, my computer is highly underutilized.

But when I finally gave in to the buzz of Pinterest and accepted an invitation from my cousin to join, just so I could find out what it was, I was ... overwhelmed impressed enthused confused excited.

If you don't know what Pinterest is, it is basically a virtual bulletin board that acts much the same as your bookmark tool does on your computer... only better.

At first I thought, "this is so much better than bookmarking pages, because now I can categorize them and find them easily with pictures!"

Then I realized that as I did that, others could see what I was bookmarking... and that I could see what they were bookmarking! (I'm a bit slow in the figuring things out department, but when I signed up, I really did have absolutely no idea what it was!).

And people out there... they are bookmarking incredible stuff!  Recipes that look divine! Crafts for kids! Home decor! New ways to do hair! Holiday decorations! Cleaning tips! Technology advice! Books! Quotes! Photography of amazing places!!

And since it's done with photographs... it's all so pretty!!

So pretty!!

So... perfect.

Then I spiralled into what I can only imagine is the typical Pinterest stage 2 - depression. Because how in the world does everyone else's life look so beautiful? So perfect? How are people so creative and chipper when doing such messy projects with kids? Who in the world can fit into the size 0 clothes everyone seems to put together in fashion collections?

Seriously - the clean and model-looking houses, the perfectly coiffed children, the fashion sense and dedication to food preparation I could only dream of doing if I had all day to cook and a bottomless wallet to grocery shop. And on closer inspection, most of the amazing fashion collections are not much more than jeans and t-shirts with cool scarves and nail polish that match. Who wouldn't look good in anything in a size 0?

I started thinking... are these people real? Do people actually doing all this, living like this?

And to top it all off, they are photographing it all - and not just with your point and shoot camera in bad lighting. Professionally. Like magazine quality photography.

I was depressed, because my life does not resemble any of this. Half the time, I'm lucky to get my hair in a ponytail before waking the kids, packing lunches, pouring cereal, and shoving everyone out the door to school. Laundry sits in my dryer until the next load needs the space, and then it sits in the hamper until it is so wrinkled I have to put it back in the dryer. There are piles of stuff around the house because I don't know where to put it, and there isn't time to clean out closets and get rid of some stuff to make room for others. I wear jeans and t-shirts, but they never look fashionable. And I've been known to occasionally set the kids in front of the Wii so I can get more writing done.

I consoled myself by thinking no one did ALL of this stuff. I bet the people with the fantastic delicious dinners have  gross bathrooms and unruly kids. And the mom doing all those amazing crafts with her kids probably does not match her nail polish with her high heels. 

Seriously, one can not be ALL put together, right?  So maybe I could find just one thing...

Apple nachos.

My kids need snack, right? And this looked super easy, and fun. Slice up some apples, melt a little peanut butter and drizzle over them, throw a handful of coconut, chocolate chips and nuts on them and WALA!! Gourmet snack!!

I did this for them on a Friday and it took less than five minutes and I was hero, I tell you. HERO!! They gobbled them up, I felt pretty good about them eating apples and peanut butter (and this is SO MUCH EASIER than trying to spread peanut butter on apples!!), and the next day they begged for them again. And then I realized they could make them themselves, and now they do. WIN!!

Then someone posted a sure-fire way to get out stains from clothes. I was highly skeptical. But I have this yellow Eddie Bauer sweatshirt I practically live in in the winter that I love love love. And it has this big stain down the front I nearly cry over. I think it's coffee. It's been so long I don't remember. But I do know I have washed and dried this thing to death.

But I tried the solution: baking soda, peroxide, and Dawn dishwashing liquid. Just a little of each, rubbed it in and let it set and...

OH MY GOSH IT CAME OUT!!! The stain was gone, and the old ratty sweatshirt looks like new!!

I tried it on underarm stains on my husband's t-shirts (that was actually what it was suppose to help with in the first place) and it worked! White t-shirts again!

I've done searches on Pinterest for things I could just as well have Googled, but more often than not, I find things I didn't even know I was looking for. Ways to make scarves (super fast!) out of old t-shirts, DIY glow-in-the-dark slime for the kids, how to store Christmas lights without tangling, dozens of creative uses for mason jars (including outdoor lighting and pre-made salads with dressings you can store in the fridge for the week ahead), cheap, homemade weed spray, window cleaner that is pennies and works better than any windex or other cleaner I've ever used, holiday and party ideas. The list goes on and on.

You can go nuts. I know. It gets crazy looking at everything out there. I've vowed to only pin the things I actually can do (except pretty home spaces... I just like looking at those). I check recipes to make sure they are doable before pinning them on my own boards. I pin only those crafts I think the kids and I could do reasonably without killing each other.

I spend only a few minutes each day on Pinterest, breezing through the latest pins. I could care less how many people follow me, or how many I follow, or how many repin my pin. I am not into the competition it could turn into. This is just for me. And my family.

And my kids will tell you over and over that Pinterest has made our lives better. They love it. And I think I'm getting out behind my computer a little more to do things with them.

Over spring break, we did these together:

Bunny cookies. We used prepackaged sugar cookie mix and cut out them out with egg-shaped cutters I had from when the kids were little. We also (finally!!) (on Pinterest!) found the recipe and instructions for how to make icing that "flows" and then hardens. Powered sugar, milk, corn syrup, lemon juice. That's it. These took us about an hour between mixing the dough, cutting, cooking, and decorating.

And a wreath. Cardboard, ribbon, and plastic eggs. It didn't cost us a dime, because we had so many eggs from previous years. My daughter cut out the cardboard "wreath" and the kids all hot-glued the eggs onto it, sticking a little extra "grass" for texture.  I love it!!! Less than half and hour to do.

Colored eggs with Kool Aid. Hmmm... we're always looking for new ways to decorate. No way is perfect, fun, and gorgeous, but the kids loved this. The best hint I got, though, was to boil the water with baking soda so the eggs peel more easily. And also, don't peel them. Cut the egg in half and then scoop the egg out of the shell with a spoon! Miracle tip!!

My youngest saw these cupcakes on Pinterest and wanted them for her birthday. Easiest birthday decorating ever! Chocolate cupcakes, green icing piped on with a grass tip (which I already had) and a bag of Cadbury eggs. She put the eggs on. :)

One week we had a new dinner every night. Great food. Some simple - like crispy oven fried chicken and Chick-fil-A knock offs, and others incredibly decadent (but also easy, because I don't have time to be cooking all day!). One tasted like something you'd get at Carrabas, and since I've never been good at Italian, I was stoked! We've incorporated almost all of those into our regular menu, which is a breath of fresh air for all of us.

I can easily get depressed looking through all the pins, thinking how less-than-magazine-perfect my life is. There are still piles around my house, dust layers on pictures. I still miss appointments occasionally and run late almost everywhere I go. I will never look like a model in my jeans and t-shirt.

But I now have a purse and nail polish that match. And sometimes, that is enough to make me smile.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I am not gone; I am writing.

I think this is the longest I've been away from the blog, and I forever feel guilt for not writing here, and coming to see you.

When I rewrote my blog profile after getting into school, I wrote half-jokingly, "If you don't see me for a while, I'm probably buried under books."  How true that turned out to be! I've read 17 books in three months. My stack of still-to-read is unwieldy.

While I don't feel like I've been in school that long, I've forgotten what it feels like to not live under constant stress. Something is always looming, always hanging over me. Sure, I get to read great books, but the having to read them sucks out just a bit of the joy of them.  Over spring break, with my kids home and my son begging me to take him to see the Hunger Games movie, I snuck in two days of reading the book. Just fun, pure, not-on-my-reading-list reading. Oh the bliss! Oh the delicious joy of reading just to read, just for a good story that sucks you in and will not let you go!

I'm both looking forward to the day when I don't have a list to follow and can read willy-nilly whatever catches my fancy, whether it is just plain fun or good literature, and also dreading the day when I'm left to my own devices with books, and probably miss out on some really great stuff because it looks too literary or not fun enough. Without school, I would never have read Let the Great World Spin or The Book Thief or In the Lake of the Woods or City of Thieves, all of which are amazing books that will stay with me forever. Seriously great books, recommended to me by people who may or may not be in my life in a year to point out good books I might like.

And when I'm not reading, I'm writing. If there is a spare minute somewhere, one that makes me stop to think, "I should blog right now... " by the time I get the computer open, my mind is already in the story I am writing.

All I think of when I come to the blog is apologies. For not blogging enough. For not visiting you enough. For not having enough time to do it all.

What I'm learning this semester: cut. cut. and cut some more. The reader does not need to know as much as you think they do. (Look at The Hunger Games. Almost no background is given in that book. Almost no explanation of what "the reaping" is or what "the Capitol" means, or who people are. Collins just writes as though you know, and in enough pages, you do know.) 

Keep the story in the present. Whenever you feel tempted to lapse into backstory or flashbacks, figure out a way to bring that information into the present instead.

Every page needs to engage tension, raise the stakes of your story. Something needs to always be at stake. The possibility of losing something great. Consequences.

Every scene needs to have a purpose, move the plot forward. Do not indulge in fluff.

Choose good words. Choose uncommon words where possible.

The first sentence of your story should be the whole story in microcosm.

The "find" tool in Word is a revisionist's best friend.

Read great books. Notice what the author did well. What is it you love about a book? How did the author accomplish that? It's easy to find fault with writing, but any book probably has something good in it to. Identify it. Incorporate it.

Cut some more. Whole scenes. Whole paragraphs if needed. Words here and there. As your fingers hover over the delete key, it feels like you are cutting off part of your body. But when you do it, suddenly the manuscript feels cleaner. More focused. It feels good.

Listen to yourself. First and foremost, listen to yourself. Beta readers are good, but in the end, you are the author of your story.

And if you need to stop blogging for a while to just write, that's okay too. Forgive yourself. Unless your dream is to become a world-famous blogger.